Drexel Establishes Nation’s First Minor in Pediatric Engineering for Students in STEM and Health Fields | Now
The ongoing pandemic and the unique healthcare challenges it continues to create have exposed the need for medical professionals to have broader skillset to solve the most complex and pressing challenges. Because of this need and to ensure technology and clinical care are optimized for the needs of an individual patient, Drexel University recently launched an unprecedented offering for future leaders in STEM and health disciplines: a new minor in pediatric engineering. The new program is the country’s first minor in pediatric engineering for people in STEM and health fields and one of the first concentrations or minor degree programs in the country to explore this growing discipline.
The new graduate-level minor also comes at a time when higher education niche offerings are expanding, as public and private colleges and universities have added 41,446 degree or certificate programs since 2012.
The minor in pediatric engineering consists of a broad interdisciplinary curriculum to educate students in science, engineering, mathematics, medicine, psychology and other related degree programs in childhood injury and illness, health care and treatment, and prepares students to apply from design thinking to principles of biomedical technology to drive innovation in research labs and in patient-centered care at the bedside.
“Current medical interventions are treating our children as if they were small adults,” he said Amy Throckmorton, PhD, associate professor at the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems and co-director of the minor program. “Children have unique anatomy and physiology that change dramatically during growth and development, and childhood diseases are complex and different from adult diseases. Our children deserve personalized therapies and our very best in medical care, technology and treatment.”
Throckmorton added that this program will prepare tomorrow’s healthcare leaders to develop these new solutions and contribute the latest technology and knowledge specifically tailored to this patient population.
“Innovation in pediatric healthcare discoveries and technology has lagged decades behind the advances seen for adults, despite the rare and distinct needs of the pediatric population,” said Paul W. Brandt-Rauf, ScD, MD, DrPH, dean of the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems. “Thanks to ongoing and new collaborations with clinical experts from St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and industry partners, our minor program will educate and enable our students to become the engineers, clinicians and entrepreneurs tasked with closing this gap, which generally cannot be easily bridged with smaller versions of adult technology.”
Based on the foundations of biomedical and pediatric engineering, the program offers students the opportunity to take a wide variety of elective courses, covering topics such as cardiovascular engineering, biomedical ethics and law, medical device development, and biomedical mechanics. These course options help ensure graduates are agile and adaptable for a variety of careers in pediatric engineering and health care, and are particularly primed to develop innovative therapies, devices and treatments to improve children’s health.
“The profound and complex heterogeneity of children’s life cycles requires nuanced considerations of therapies and interventions,” said Jamie L. Wells, MD, an adjunct professor in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems. “Broad-brush grooming, like the overly simplistic notion of scale, is insufficient to accommodate the fluid nature of the developing child. This newly emerging field of pediatric engineering is responsible for these very real and human factors.”
Drexel’s minor in pediatric engineering is open to Drexel graduate students in STEM or health-related programs who demonstrate a math proficiency requirement of at least Calculus I.
“This minor is intended for our Drexel students. But non-Drexel students or professionals who already have a bachelor’s degree can also enroll as a non-matriculated student.” said Andres Kriete, PhD, associate dean for academic affairs at the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems.
Why pediatric technology is growing
Throckmorton and colleagues recently wrote an editorial in the journal Artificial Organs on “The Newly Emerging Field of Pediatric Engineering: Innovation for Our Next Generation,” sharing why this unique educational training is so important and how new lessons are being learned every day. in this area .
For example, the authors cite a newly observed “Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome” in children that is associated with COVID-19, which helps researchers understand why adults experience a more intense “hyperinflammatory response” to the disease. In addition, researchers don’t know the long-term effects of the pandemic on children, including distance education and missed medical appointments – new challenges that people in health and STEM will have to address in the coming decades.
“[Pediatric engineering] commandeers to meet the specific needs of the child while anticipating dynamic growth and development into adulthood,” the authors wrote. “We are building a new pipeline of trained scientists and engineers who have developed a unique toolbox of skills they can use to address unmet clinical needs in the global pediatric healthcare system for years to come.”
Program details and required courses are available on the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems website.